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The God of Glory - Acts 7:1-16

 

THE GOD OF GLORY

Acts 7:1-16                                  click here for audio

Our focus is on a man called Stephen who was among the seven selected by the church and affirmed by the Apostles to oversee the daily distribution of food to the needy widows in the church. He was not a deacon, but served much like a deacon.  He was not an apostle, but he was doing great wonders and signs among the people much like the Apostles.  The Bible tells us Stephen was a man a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit;  full of grace and power.  Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew,  a Hellenistic Jew, which means he was from out of town.  His home was outside Jerusalem; and outside the land of Palestine.   Other Greek-speaking Jews who were of the synagogue of the Freedman;  those of the Cyrenians,  Alexandrians, from Cilicia and Asia rose up to dispute with Stephen.

Why did they dispute with Stephen?     Stephen preached Christ.  He declared Jesus to be the Messiah,  the Christ,  the Son of God.   The same Jesus the Jews were guilty of betraying and handing over to the Romans to be crucified.    Stephen preached the glorious achievements of Christ as He fulfilled the law,  and the way of righteousness was not through the keeping of the law, but faith in Jesus Christ.

The Jews stirred up the people.  They accused Stephen of blasphemy. The Jews could not  withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen was speaking,  so they attack Stephen personally.   They accused him of blasphemy against 4 things:     Look back in Acts 6:11

We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.   Go to v.13 “and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.

They accused Stephen of blasphemy against (1)  Moses,  (2)  God,  (3)  the temple, and  (4) the law.

They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin council.  Blasphemy against the sacred things of God was a serious charge. The punishment according to Old Testament law was stoning. 

Stephen is given an opportunity to speak on his behalf.  Notice v.1   And the high priest said,  “Are these things so?”    This charge of blasphemy, and of saying things that dishonors Moses, God, the temple and the law, is this what you are doing?     V.2  and Stephen said:  Brothers and fathers, hear me. ….what follows is a message from Stephen.  Here is his sermon refuting the charges brought against him.

The question that you may have this morning,  “why is this important for us to hear and to  consider?”

God saw fit to have it in the scriptures. God gave it to Luke under divine inspiration for God’s people to read and profit from it.  It’s important because it’s God’s Word.   It’s important because what Stephen says will get him killed.   He is stoned for this message.  This message from Stephen was despised and hated by the religious rulers of that day.    He gives them a history lesson.  It’s not just any history, it was their history.  It’s the history of the Jewish people as to how they got started,  and how God worked his plans and purposes in their history.  More important, it’s God’s redemptive history.  Stephen shows how for over 1500 years since the time of their father Abraham,  they rejected God’s will.   They rejected God’s chosen servants.  And their rejection of the Righteous One, the Lord Jesus is in keeping with their forefathers who rejected God’s prophets and God’s message of salvation.    

We are going to look at biblical history, and if you are not familiar with it, much is found in the book of  Genesis. Stephen’s audience knew the information we have here in chapter 7.

Look at Stephen’s conclusion to his sermon in vv.51-53:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

This message by Stephen is relevant today, because we live among people who are “stiff-necked”  and “uncircumcised in heart and ears”.   They are proud and refuse to Hear God’s Word.  They always resist the Holy Spirit.  People today are law breakers.  They want only a Jesus who will accept them and never change them.  They want Heaven for their eternal home, but they don’t want the God of heaven to tell them what to do.  It is no different today.

Let’s see how this message speaks clearly to us today.

Hear Me

To benefit we must first be committed to listen:

Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken   (hear me).    In my time of study for this message today,  I wanted to be careful to first “hear me”   “listen”.   If I ask that of you, I must first take that same admonition -  Preacher, listen to God.   Hear what God is saying in his Word.   Stephen does not give a new message.  He doesn’t put a new spin on the Word of God.  He gives that same message that’s recorded in their Bible which at that time was only the Old testament.

Stephen stays with the Word of God.   That’s our intention this morning.  We are not to come up with some new stories,  new ideas,  new philosophical babblings.  We must declare the OLD, OLD STORY, yet its always refreshing,  and renewing because it’s GOD’S STORY.    It’s God’s redemptive story. 

Stephen does something which is a reminder to all preachers,  and all bible teachers.  Remember who you are.  You are no one special just because you happen to be the preacher for the day.   Look at v.2

Brothers and fathers, hear me.      Stephen is saying,  “I’m just like you…we are brethren…we are brothers.  I’m not some high and mighty  “know it all”.     And then he says  “fathers”.   He shows respect to the elders, the leaders, and rulers in the temple.    Stephen preaches powerfully, but he is humble. He knows his place.   He could not have been saved for too long, probably a few weeks, or a few months at the most.  Yet,  he is humble in demanding they “pay attention” to what he is about to say.

We must remember that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, or the Word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17    Holman Christian Bible says it this way, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”     Stephen preaches with the purpose of showing how God was pointing to Christ.  We fail if our study of scriptures does not lead us to Christ.    Someone once asked  Charles Spurgeon as to how he came up with Bible messages.   Spurgeon said,  “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.”   

As we get into Stephens message,  let’s remember the charges that were brought against him.

He was charged with blasphemy against God,  against Moses,  against the temple, and against the law. 

He deals with each one.  First,  the charge of blasphemy against God.

The God of Glory

Notice v.2  “…….the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham…”

By making reference to “our father Abraham”  every Jew in the house should have looked up with great interest because Abraham was their founder,  the originator of the Jewish race.    A true full blooded Jew has great respect and honor for Abraham.    However, Stephen does not exalt Abraham.  He does not say,  “Abraham did this, and Abraham did that.”    He begins with  the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,”      If you want to read more about God appearing to Abraham, or Abram is the name given first,  then Genesis 11 is the place to begin.

Out of the blue God calls Abram, or I might say Abraham which is the name we are most familiar with.  Look at v.3    “Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.  v.4 “then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran.

First,  Abraham lived in Mesopotamia, and more particularly  “Ur of the Chaldeans”.   The city of Ur was located between the Tigris and Euphrates River.   This is hundreds of miles away from the land God was going to give to Abraham.   God tells Abraham…  “go out from your land”      “Get away from where you live….start traveling….I will show you where to go.

The land of Chaldeans,   the land of Abraham’s birthplace, the land of his fathers was a land of idolatry. Their religion was “paganism”.   The number one thing they worshipped was the moon.   They worshipped the sun, the stars, and all kinds of false deities.  It was a country of great wickedness.  Abraham’s world was a world of pagan worship.  It was a world without God.  A world without Christ. A world doomed to destruction      Abraham knew NOT the living God.  He cared not for the Living God.  He was NOT looking for the True God.     But the God of glory appeared to him  and called him out from idolatry. 

THE GOD OF GLORY IS A GOD OF GRACE

Here is a message of grace.   It’s a message of divine election.  The God of glory could have showed up at the doorstep of  Abraham’s neighbor,  or at the doorstep of Abraham’s relative,  or the doorstep of a million other people,  but God came to the doorstep of Abraham.   God chose Abraham, and it was not because there was some personal goodness in Abraham.  Abraham was a moon worshipper.  Yet, the God of glory appeared to him and called him out to show him a land that he would give him.

Abraham wasn’t looking for God.    It doesn’t say  “Abraham appeared to God one day”;   NO!    rather the God of Glory appeared to Abraham.  God took the initiative. God reached down to Abraham and called him to Himself.   Called him to turn from the world of paganism and follow God.

This begins his journey of faith.

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Acts 7:4    Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.

Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and traveled to Haran.  Haran is about 500 miles northwest of Ur.   This is not the place where God wanted Abraham to stay, but the scriptures tell us in Genesis 11:31  “when they came to Haran they settled there.”      The journey of faith seemingly got a delay in Haran.   They didn’t come to a “relay” station.  They came to a permanent settlement.  This was not God’s will.   They were not to settle down there.  Maybe, a few days,  maybe enough to get rested up and move on,  but not to settle down.   Haran was not to be a permanent stopping place.   It was in Haran that two things happened.   One,   Abraham father, Terah died at the age of 205.   When you read the text in Genesis it seems like Abraham’s father was calling the shots.    You think it was God who called Terah, and not Abraham to go to the land of Canaan.  The second thing that happened in Haran after Abraham’s father died,  God appeared again to Abraham and gave what is called the Abrahamic covenant.

Genesis 12:1-3

Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Notice in Acts 7:4 “….and after his father died, God removed him from there into this land.”

 God removed him from there into this land.  Literally, the  Hebrew wording,  “God migrated him sovereignly” [1]     Had not God intervened, Abraham would have stayed in Haran.     I believe this is what Stephen is bringing out.   The HAND OF GOD is seen in their history.   All down through the history of the Jewish people, if it wasn’t for the intervening hand of God, they would have been swept into the culture of the world.

About 19 times you see the name of God used by Stephen.       

God of glory appeared….and God removed him….  when he had no power to remove himself,  God intervened.     We sing of God’s amazing grace.  We sing of His  “saving” grace.  And there is also God’s delivering grace, and God’s  sustaining grace.

      Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come;

      ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

 

Stephen is not boasting about the achievements of Abraham.   The boasting is to the God of glory.  The God who will remove us from situations. God will remove obstacles from our journey of faith.

 

 

THE GOD OF GLORY IS THE GOD OF PROMISE

 

v.5   “Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child.”

 

 

Abraham was given a promise.  God promised to give to Abraham and his descendants the land which runs from the Mediterranean up north into Asia.  It’s a huge mass of land that’s  much, much larger than what Israel possesses today.      Abraham walked on property that he never inherited. He wander from place to place without really owning it,  not even ONE SQUARE FOOT of it.   Abraham arrived in the Promised Land that he never really possessed.    It was only a promise to Abraham, not a possession.  Abraham was living not on a possession, but on a promise.  He was standing on the promises of God. 

 

Hebrews 11:13-16

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

 

That should help to remind us.   The ground upon which we walk,  the property where we live is NOT our permanent dwelling.  We’re only camping out for a few days.  We are pilgrims and strangers in this world.  This world is not our home.

 

Philippians 3:20

….. our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

 

 

What did Abraham do with the Promises of God?      He BELIEVED GOD!

 

Romans 4:18-25

 

18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.  19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:  20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.  22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.  23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;   24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;   25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

 

 

 

 

Read vv.6-7

 

God’s promise includes the future of the children of Israel in Egypt.  God promises their stay in Egypt will be 400 years.      THEY SHALL COME OUT.

 

75 souls went to stay in Egypt.  (see v.14)     And when they came out   according to Exodus 12  600,000 men,  besides women and children.   If you add them…easily come up with a number between 2 and 3 million.

 

God not only gave promises to Abraham,  He also gave the Sign of the promise.  The sign of circumcision.   READ v.8

 

Here’s the family tree from Abraham (v.8)     Abraham’s son was Isaac;   Isaac’s son was Jacob and Jacob’s sons were the twelve patriarchs….That is they were the fathers of twelve tribes.

The twelve were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. 

 

Stephen covers all of this  because it is GOD who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   The God of Glory is the God of Abraham and his descendants.  He is the God of Grace and He is the God of Promise.

 

Our attention is now given to Joseph,  one of the twelve patriarchs,  one of the twelve sons of Jacob.

The birthright was given to Joseph.  That was God’s plan.   In 1Chronicles 5:2  “the birthright was Joseph’s”   It wasn’t given to the firstborn, Reuben.  Reuben was guilty of sexual sin.   All that was to be given to Reuben would be given to Joseph.  

Joseph was favored by his father, Jacob.  There was much jealousy among the other brothers.  They came up with a scheme to get rid of Joseph. They stripped him of his robe of many colors and put him in a pit.  They decided to sell him as a slave when some slave traders came passing their way. The brothers killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s robe of many colors in the blood.  They went home lying to their father Jacob saying, a beast in the field had killed Joseph. 

 

God takes care of Joseph.   SEE v.9 “……but God was with him.  

 

THE GOD OF GLORY IS THE GOD of PROVISION

 

God would not allow harm to come to Joseph.

 

READ v.10

God rescued Joseph out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharoah, king of Egypt and over all his household.

 

God provided Joseph with the ability to interpret dreams.   That’s how he got in good with Pharoah.

God provided Joseph with favor and wisdom.   God gave Joseph such favor that eventually he became the Prime Minister of Egypt.  He was over everyone except for the Pharoah of Egypt.

 

Joseph was made ruler over Egypt.  This is how God made provision for what was coming.

 

Look  v.11

 

Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food.

 

But this was no surprise to God… nor was it a surprise to Joseph.   God had already given Joseph knowledge of the coming famine.  He used the wisdom given to him by God  to plan for the future.  He had the Egyptians to save up their resources;  save food  for the coming famine.   When famine hit the whole Middle East,  their was news that food could be found in Egypt.

 

Jacob heard about the grain in Egypt.   (read v.12)    He sends his sons to buy food in Egypt.

They go twice and on the second visit  Joseph makes himself known to this brothers.

As it turns out…the entire family moves to Egypt.   The famine was so bad that Egypt was a paradise and Jacob winds up living in Egypt until his death.   All the brothers lived out their life in Egypt and they along with Jacob were buried back home in a place called Shechem.   A burial ground had been purchased years ago by Abraham.

 

We’ll stop with Stephen’s  message at this point.  It’s their history.   Stephen was not giving information that was unknown to the Jewish council.  They all KNEW THEIR HISTORY.

 

What was Stephen’s purpose in all of this?

 

What was he trying to prove?

 

 

They accused Stephen of blasphemy against God.    But Stephen makes it crystal clear  the God of glory appeared to Abraham.   Stephen is saying in his message,   “NO,  I’m not blaspheming against God.   I know how God worked in the past.  But really you are the ones guilty of blaspheming God.

 

You are just like the jealous brothers of  Joseph.  They rejected Joseph who was God’s choice.   They persecuted Joseph.  See v.52  which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered.

 

Just like Joseph’s brothers – who stripped the robe of many colors from Joseph.  You had Jesus stripped of his robe.   Just like Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph for money,  you betrayed Jesus for money.   You rejected Jesus,  the Righteous One,  you betrayed him and murdered him.

 

Stephen turns the tables on them,  and indicts them of their blasphemy against the God of glory.

What Stephen preaches will get him killed, and he becomes the church’s  FIRST MARTYR.

 

There will be others to follow.   As one church father has said,  the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

 

APPLICATION:

We are taught through the life of Stephen to be BOLD in our witness for Christ.   We are taught the importance of staying with the Scriptures.  Our witness must be both “bold”  and “biblical”.    We are taught to point to the Lord Jesus Christ in our witnessing.   He is God the Son. 

 

Jesus is the God of glory;   Jesus is the God of Grace;   Jesus is the God of Promise – He is the God of Provision…

 

Colossians 2:9

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

 

Apart from Jesus Christ -  there is no salvation,  no provision for sin,  no promise of Heaven,  no gift of grace to pardon sinners.

 

It’s all in Christ alone.  

 

 

 

 



[1] See www.gty.org   John Macarthur’s sermon  “Stephen’s Old Testament Defense of Christ, Part 1”  Acts 7:1-17 Code: 44-25


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